If I could give advice to my pregnant self, here's what I would say...
Dear First Time Mom,
Let me tell you the truth: motherhood is laced with idyllic stories and tempting fantasies. I'm looking at you now, your 8-month pregnant self, belly rounded with life and your head full of those half-truths. You're dreaming about wrapping your son in his muslin blankets, planning out his monthly birthdays, shopping for his stylish organic rompers. You're spending so much time looking at swimming trunks online, little shoes and backpacks for all his adventures. You wonder what toys and books and Disney movies you'll introduce to him first. You and your husband are brimming with excitement as this new chapter is finally within your horizon.
But let me hold your hand, Deanne. Let me show you the realness, the rawness of it all.
Brace yourself. Are you ready?
Here's another truth, the truth you really need to know: Motherhood will feel heavy. Instead of being embraced by its magic, you will find yourself buried under its demands. Coming home from the hospital won't be totally celebratory; it'll be daunting, too. Breastfeeding will hurt unlike anything you've ever felt before; you'll cringe every time you hear your son's cries for hunger. Sleep will be a decade away; even just five minutes extra will feel too indulgent because you have to attend to the baby now. Your helpless little one will cry for two hours straight and you've already tried everything but nothing works so you cry with him. Instead of bringing you closer, parenthood will make you feel further away from your husband. You will fear sunset as it signals the beginning of a long and dark night ahead. All these and a hundred other details, hour after hour, day after day...
It will feel heavy because of the gravity of this equation: you will give everything and your son will take it all. He needs everything of you for his survival. It sounds beautiful at first but when you actually need to show up every single day, you will feel bone tired - a tiredness that weighs you down. And this fatigue has side effects that will overwhelm you: you will cry, you will miss your old life, you will take it out on your husband, and worst of all, you will feel inadequate as a wife, as a mother, as a woman.
You will try to solve these problems by buying baby products (a carrier that mimics the womb? a pillow that eases the breastfeeding? Yes please!), reading baby books, and Googling every single question that pops into your head. Stop. None of these will help. Only time will.
Trust me when I say that one day, he will finally learn how to open his eyes and look at you with such curiosity. He will give you a gummy grin, a silly smile when he is perfectly content. He will enjoy nappy changes and bath time. He will coo and coo when you talk to him. He will sleep longer through the night in his own crib. He will enjoy walks around the garden and playtime in his swing. He will grow and give you the baby fat you've always dreamed of pinching. One day, the heaviness will feel lighter. Just trust in the resilience of your son and finally, he will also give and you will take.
That is new motherhood, my dear. Do you need something else to keep going? Store this gem of a truth in your heart: the joy you will feel will be as overwhelming as the burdens you had to go through. The bigger the cross, the more radiant the joy. Just stay the course and soon enough, the magic will swirl around you and your family, magic that comes from Something greater than anything here on earth. Then you will have the greatest adventures you had always hoped for. For now, plough through, march on, keep the faith. That's what your son needs you to do. After all, darkness only means that the light is just around the corner.
So just let the storm be, for now. Then let your son surprise you. The greatest secret is that he'll actually be the one to lift off the heaviness for you... not yourself. That's why the children are the gift.
The 3-month old Mom
Photography by Nicolai Melicor.